Please Check Your Emotional Baggage At the Door........This is it the final day, and its been such a pleasure to get here, two days of fantastic music already gone and a whole day's worth of music to go before we reach the proverbial fat lady singing moment. But what a moment it's going to be, and before today is out, there will be krautrock, folk and an improvised drum circle and none of it will feel contrived. It will in fact be the perfect end to my highlight of the summer, so before I get anymore drippy and splurge even more on praise lets get on with it!
11:30am and for some reason I think I can hear a medieval marching band, if I was hungover or suffering from the effects of drink, but its far too early for that. I haven't even had breakfast yet, so its something of a relief when I spot Michael Tyack and some of the other Circulus band members have become a marching band and merrily wandering the campsite spreading their happy message. Even taking the time i'm sure to show some of the younger campsite members how to use the crumhorn they've brought along with them. A short while later Woodcraft Folk are pleasing the crowd with their folktronic take on krautrock like motorik rythyms. Gentle if slightly rigid vignettes bookended by chiming xylophones, bells and if they could get away with it a kitchen sink too. It's actually really hard to track down even the merest smidgen of infomation about this unit of likeminded folk, other than glowing reviews of their debut album which is currently enjoying a second limited pressing run on Earworm Records complete with a limited 5x5 hand screened print. We wander away just before the end of their set in order to make our way over to the DJ tent where James Yorkston hot off his almost epochal stint in the Folkey Dokey stage the night before. As we approach the tent there is an ominous sound being produced from inside it, a grinning Yorkston is tucked away behind his chosen weapon of mass sound production, bathing the gathered crowd and an undercover Adem in the gothic tones of Scott Walker's "Farmer In The City".
Back to the mainstage then for Juana Molina, anyone not familar with Juana by now should be locked away and made to listen to those "Panpipe Moods" compilations for the indefinite future. Anyway for anyone not currently on her wavelength I'll save you the above horror and explain that back in her native Argentina, Juana was a cause celebré for many year she was a ratings winning comedienne with her own weekly primetime sitcom. She gave all that up though to return to her first love music. Her fusion of traditional Argentinian folk music and gently lilting electronica, bring the sun to the mountains for a while and gets an appreciative crowd swaying like a Brazillian cantina. Currently promoting her third domestically available album "Son" on Matador records she has been hailed as a South American Bjork and will probably continue to earn plaudits with every new record. From one solitary figure on a huge stage coping really well to another and argueably one of the most sintillating acts of the weekend.
Marissa Nadler cuts a very unassuming figure as she nervously soundchecks a special mic effect in front of the assembled crowd. It's mostly to everyones surprise when she subsequently strolls back on a stage filled with guitars a few minutes later and informs us that she has left her band back home. She takes alot of time to thank the warm crowd reaction to material from both her previous releases and mixes in a number of new tracks taken from as the yet untitled new LP due January 2007 on Peacefrog Records. She finishes the set with a spectral reading of an Edgar Allen Poe poem backed by one of her own compositions, to say it was spinetingling would be at this juncture something of an understatement.
Marissa Nadler - Lily Henry & The Willow Tree
There's some time to kill for me until the next act I want to see, so I decide to have a wander about the minature village green on site where all sorts of odd craft stalls are gathered, selling anything from hand fashioned tunics to stalls selling postcards of "picturesque Britain" and oddly enough a coconut shy. I didn't hang around too long though because I was mindful of the popularity of a oppotunity to watch Sunburned Hand Of The Man peform a live soundtrack to the experimental film "Invasion Of The Thunderbolt Pagoda" by 60 counter culture figure and avant garde director Ira Cohen. The film itself is largely albeit very incoherent is not without its charms, a melange of the kaledoscopic fisheye lensed shots combined with examples of Cohen's own mylar photographry. For this performance SBHOTM are joined by Keith Woods of the band Hush Arbors. Its here that I meet up with the Steve & Sandro' two amiable Austrailians who seem to be operating on the same wavelength. I actually met them the night before during the Jack Rose set albeit briefly. Which is a handy segue into the next act as its him that we stood two feet away from during Bert Jansch's turn on the main stage. It's also safe to point out at this time that the normally quite rerved (I'd imagine) Jack Rose is whooping and hollering like a fan boy all the way through the three songs we hang around for.
On the way back to the Folkey Dokey stage to get a good spot for later we are distracted by a rabble rowsing incident around the Cafe stage. Turns out its Brandon Massei otherwise known as Viking Moses, a self possesed poet come folk Kurt Cobain. Also joining Massei as his own personal choir put together an hour earlier and very much learning the words as they went along are James Yorkston, Adrian Crowley and Marissa Nadler, there are also sugestions that Nancy Elizabeth Cunliffe is on bass and a random crowd member is on percusion. Being short I can't substantiate this though, so I'll take their word for it! As an aside this is very definitely a highlight of the weekend and truely a sight to behold, its almost as if someone has transposed that spirit that permeated the Newport Jazz Festivals of the late 60's and 70's and plonked it down in mid Wales. Back then it wasn't uncommon to see the greats getting up on stage and performing heart stopping sets together regardless of colour, class or creed.
It also serves as the best apertif to the dark laden gothic murder and folk ballards that Alaisdair Roberts has brought with him this weekend. Scottish based singer/songwriter Roberts was raised in Callander, but has since relocated to Glasgow where he has operated from for the last ten years. His earliest recording being produced under the moniker Appendix Out, he made the switch to using his name in 2001 on "The Crook Of The Arm" a collection of traditional Scottish and English folk songs released on the Secretly Canadian imprint. The followup "Farewell Sorrow" to this came two years later produced by the High Llamas member Rian Murphy and was succeeded again in 2005 by the Will Oldham helmed "No Earthly Man" both on Drag City records. The set he plays this evening draws on all three albums as well as unveiling new material from his forthcoming album "The Amber Gatherers" and one or two Duncan Williamson covers thrown in for good measure. A fact that doesn't go unoticed by the Scottish contingent present in the tent.
Last act and who better to close out an excellent weekend than those Bostonian freaks Sunburned Hand Of The Man and okay so I saw them earlier in the day but this is going to be so much different now they are untethered from any restraints and we are now flying "No Mind" airlines. Our captain for this journey asks us cordially to check our emotional baggage at the door and then dedicates the following hour to the Welsh Pysch rockers Man. This is my first experience of Sunburned live, having avidly followed them on record since their earliest recorded output. Tonight they are in full Krautrock mode locked tightly into a circular groove, complete with shamanic intonations. The crowd is moving as one almost, whilst on stage all manner of mayhem is unfolding guitars are looped at source, a Harmonium is defiled at one point Keith Woods is even seen to be attempting to play his guitar with a drumstick, I think the cider might have been affecting my view for a moment there. They play an encore which lasts a good fifteen minutes and then dissapear leaving an ecstatic crowd demanding more.
The weekend isn't over yet though as its time to wander the stage area, for a while considering whether to go spot the Bluegrass band that haunts the bonfire or join the drumming circle in the main promenade. The later wins out this time and by the time we get there its already packed out and in full flow, Congas, Djembes and Bongo's all being liberally abused, while all manner of other found instrumentation is deployed left right and centre. These guys don't stop either, they keep going slowly the rythyms evolve at one point a Saxophonist joins the throng and an impromptu run through the Specials back catalogue is instigated with everyone in the tent joining the in for the choruses. It's getting on for 3am now and finally my tent is calling I make good my escape and sink into a deep sleep, tomorrow is going to be depressing as its time to vacate the picturesque site of Glanusk but not without saying goodbye to all those people that made the whole thing special in the first place!